HomeFeatures/AnalysisInterview with Joseph Mashao, Managing Director of SMA Solar Technology

Interview with Joseph Mashao, Managing Director of SMA Solar Technology

“If we are to advance the development of renewable energies in South Africa we need politics to act as door opener.”

Joseph MashaoInterview with Joseph Mashao, Managing Director of SMA Solar Technology South Africa Pty Ltd. SMA is a gold sponsor at the upcoming Clean Power Africa and African Utility Week in Cape Town in May.

What SMA projects are you currently most excited about?

Largest PV power Plant in Africa
The 75 MW PV power plant Kalkbult is one of the largest PV power plants on the African continent. Equipped with SMA inverters and system technology it was able to start operation three months earlier than planned and is the first PV power plant of the REIPP program feeding power into the local grid successfully. Equipped with 84 SMA Sunny Central 800CP inverters, Kalkbult is the first PV project in the South African REIPP program to have been connected to the utility grid and to be up and running.

Under construction: Dreunberg and Linde
The PV power plants Linde and Dreunberg with system technology by SMA are under construction. 125 Sunny Central CP XT inverters are delivered for a total of 115 MWp, 65 Transformer Compact Stations for connection to the medium- voltage grid, 750 Sunny  String-Monitors and a Power Plant Controller especially configured for the grid requirements of the South African power company ESKOM for park regulation.

Hybrid Solution: PV & Diesel
The chrome mine in Thabazimbi is a lighthouse project. A PV system with a power of one megawatt complements the existing diesel energy supply at the mine. Using up to 1.8 gigawatt hours of solar energy per year, the mine operator Cronimet Chrome Mining SA (Pty) can significantly reduce fuel costs and CO2 emissions. The scalable PV system consists of PV modules, Sunny Tripower PV inverters, and an intelligent control unit, the SMA Fuel Save Controller.

What makes SMA competitive in this market?

At Home in South Africa
SMA has fulfilled all requirements for the first and second round of the South African REIPP program and has thus enabled the first largescale PV project in South Africa Kalkbult to be up and running even before the scheduled start. SMA is strongly committed to the South African PV market and supports the local economic development efforts of the South African government now and in the future.

SMA has installed a subsidiary with 50 % Black Management and a BEE level of 4 and is steadily increasing the share of local content and job generation.

SMA fulfills local content requirements
In addition to strengthening the existing sales and service structures, SMA is ramping up its local production facilities, starting with the Sunny Central inverter production in Cape Town in 2014. By doing so, SMA meets the requirements for local added value and is also able to provide the necessary capacities for the expected South African market growth.

SMA inverters meet all South African grid code requirements
SMA inverters meet the conditions laid out in November 2012 by the „Grid Connection Code for Renewable Power Plants“. The grid connection regulations define the technical and design requirements to be met and implemented by all power plants in the renewable energy sector. Sunny Central CP XT inverters, along with their features, meet all terms prescribed by the NERSA for PV central inverters.

What do you see as the major challenges in the utility sphere?
The main challenge for South Africa at present is lack of generation capacity. The roll-out of Solar PV generation plants has proven sizable megawatts can be made available in a very short time as compared to conventional power plants. The challenge is to ensure that the plants connected to the grids can and will comply to the Grid Connection Code for control and monitoring at utility level.

What is your vision for the energy industry?

My main vision is for the Industry to enable universal access to energy for all by looking at all topologies of providing energy including Off-Grid and Mini-Grid systems.

What do you see as the main challenges to incorporating renewable energy into mainstream society?

Take South Africa, for example: Although a lot has happened in recent years, one sixth of the population is still waiting for an electricity connection. Not to mention the country’s numerous mines and industrial companies that are also dependent on a stable supply. South Africa produces almost 90% of its energy in coal-fired power plants. This is not only harmful to the climate but also creates considerable costs. The state-run electricity supplier, Eskom, estimates that an additional 60 million tons of coal are required each year to cover the country’s growing energy demand to 2020, which would necessitate investing billions in domestic mines.

However, people need affordable energy quickly, including in remote areas. This is the only way we can continue to develop.  I am convinced that this is not possible with conventional power plants.  Large coal-fired power plants not only make us dependent on expensive fuels for decades but are also extremely inflexible.  Additionally, planning and construction take far too long. It takes many years before this type of power plant actually produces electricity. This is time we don’t have.

What opportunities do you see in South Africa/Africa?

A good thing for South Africa clean electricity for 33,000 households
The South African government has also recognized this and has set up an incentive program for renewable energies. As part of the program, PV plants with a total output of 8.4 GW are to be installed by 2030. This is equivalent to eight or nine large coal-fired power plants.  I think this is a good thing for South Africa. If we are to advance the development of renewable energies in South Africa we need politics to act as door opener.

Why did you decide to partner with Clean Power Africa?

Clean Power Africa is hosted as part of one of the largest utility exhibitions in Africa with participation from most African countries.

What will be your specific message at the event?

Solar Energy is a free source of which Africa has abundance of, let’s take advantage of it by rolling out Solar PV systems of all sizes as part of the universal access to energy drive for the African population.

What are you most looking forward to at CPA?

Engaging with participants that are looking for solutions for their energy needs.